Best Botanical Gardens in Europe
Visitors can find many of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens in Europe with the Royal Botanic Garden Kew in London being the biggest botanical garden and Orto Botanica Padua in Italy being the oldest botanical garden.
The idea of researching and conserving plants has been a method used in Europe for several centuries. Scientists first initiated botanical gardens to discover the qualities of “medicinal plants” proven to work in harmony with the body to repair and replenish. Homoeopathy became a natural source of medicine derived from plant matter.
Through the centuries, Europe’s botanical gardens have continued to offer a scientific view of the natural world to the public allowing them the chance to understand and learn about the diverse variety of plant species on the European and global continents. Scientists and botanists continue to find new methods for plants to adapt and survive in a continually changing environment.
Interaction with nature and the “great outdoors” is proven to help with stress, happiness and general wellbeing. This is why millions of nature lovers visit botanical gardens each year and use them as a place of solace and tranquillity and an escape from everyday life.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Botanic Gardens are in Europe?
There are over 900 botanical gardens in Europe with Italy having the most (100).
Which is the oldest Botanical Garden in Europe?
Europe’s first botanical garden was created in Padua in 1545. Its original layout has been preserved with a central circular plot, symbolizing the world, surrounded by a ring of water.
Which is the largest Botanical Garden in Europe?
Kew Gardens in London has Europe and the world’s biggest collection of living plants. It covers 230 acres of land.
Which is the smallest Botanical Garden in Europe?
Founded in the 19th century the Jurij Fedkovich National University Botanic Garden in Ukraine is the smallest in Europe at 3.5 hectares.
Facts about Botanical Gardens in Europe were gathered from BGCI (Botanical Gardens Conservation International)
With contributions from the travel community, I can share with you the Best Botanical Gardens in Europe.
Each travel blogger has personally visited these 13 exquisite gardens.
They have given their insights into their favourite parts of the best gardens in Europe and a brief synopsis on each one.
Enjoy your virtual journey through these beautiful European botanical gardens.
Botanical Gardens in the United Kingdom
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew – England
Contributed by Angie of Where Angie Wanders
Created in 1759 by the mother of King George lll, the sensational gardens at Kew cover 230 acres of land just on the outskirts of London and holds the world’s largest collection of botanical plants. In 2003 UNESCO classed Kew Gardens as a World Heritage Site for its dedication to engaging in cutting-edge scientific research and its remarkable diversity of over 50,000 living plants.
Kew Botanical Gardens makes the perfect day trip from central London as you can escape from the hustle and bustle of the city and find solace in the enchanting highlights in the most famous gardens in Europe.
Explore the majestic arboretum – planted in the 17th century and then move on to the Great Pagoda adorned with colourful dragons. Climb the 253 steps to the top and be rewarded with far-reaching views of London.
The top visitor attraction is no doubt the cathedral-like Palm and temperate glasshouses, housing exotic and tender plant varieties and located by the vast Kew Garden lake that takes centre stage. And if you want to experience what living in a beehive might be like then a special installation known as “The Hive” can do just that!
My favourite area is the Great Broad Walk with flower borders designed with over 30,000 plants. In summer it is a riot of colour with seating areas allowing you to fully appreciate the flora and fauna. To avoid the crowds to enter Kew Gardens, pre-booked tickets can be bought online.
Other things to see at Kew are the Treetop walkway, Kew Palace ( the home of King George lll and Queen Charlotte), the Royal Kitchens, and Queen Charlotte’s cottage. Kew also has a satellite location at Wakehurst in Sussex, with 500 acres of woodland and the world’s largest seed conservation project which is well worth a visit.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh – Scotland
Contributed by Anuradha of Country Hopping Couple
Founded in 1670 in a humble abode near Holyrood palace, Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden is the second oldest of its kind in the UK and initially used for growing medicinal plants. Today, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a scientific centre to research, study and conserve a 13,300 variety of plant species covering 70 acres of beautiful landscape.
One of the primary highlights of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden is a visit to the glasshouses. These buildings, dating back to 1858 are a delight to visit any time of the year. There are ten different climatic zones and are home to 3000 exotic plants from around the world, including a 200-year-old palm tree. While entrance to the Botanic Garden is free, but there’s a charge to enter the glasshouses.
A visit to the Rock Garden is undoubtedly one of the things you should do. Climb the rock garden and enjoy the sweeping views of Edinburgh city’s skyline along with beautiful collections of plants from the world’s mountains. Wander through the 70-acre gardens admiring the Chinese hillside, Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, beech hedge, herbaceous border, alpine house and courtyard, and the woodlands.
Located off the A902, and only one mile away from the city centre, a visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh is one of the many awesome things to do in Edinburgh. There are two entrances to the garden. Depending on the direction you come, or the mode of transport you use, you can choose to enter from Inverleith Row or Arboteum Place.
Botanical Gardens in France
Jardin Exotique d’Eze
Contributed by Angie of Where Angie Wanders
Situated on the craggy hilltop of the medieval village of Eze in Southern France, the Jardin Exotique is a beautiful botanical garden to visit. It was created on the ruins of a former chateau that was destroyed during WW2. Wind your way through cobbled alleyways and up through the enchanting village of Eze until you finally reach the top, and it is here you will discover the exotic gardens.
Once a small fee has been paid, you will enter the south-facing side of the garden and see numerous species of succulent plants and cacti’s from all the world. Follow the garden pathways, full of information about the artistic and historical heritage of Eze, until you reach the north face. This side of the garden hosts Mediterranean plants and those from humid regions.
Seating areas and shaded spots offer the visitor a place for contemplation and enjoyment. For me, it was the sensational views out to the Mediterranean sea that took my breath away. Enjoy a day trip to Jardin Exotique d’Eze from Nice and explore both the village and this beautiful French botanical garden.
Jardin des Plantes Botanical Garden – Paris
Contributed by Elisa of World in Paris
The Jardin des Plantes is a botanical garden in Paris. It is lesser-known than the Tuileries Gardens or the Luxembourg Gardens, the two most famous gardens in Paris, but if you have more than two days in Paris you should visit it!
The Jardin des Plantes is in the 5th district of Paris, on the Seine’s Left Bank, and its history dates back to the 17th century. It was inaugurated in 1635 by King Louis XIII with the name of Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants, and its primary purpose was to train future doctors and pharmacists. However, it was still open for the public to enjoy.
Today the Jardin des Plantes still has this educational role amongst botanists but is also a cultural place with exciting museums like the Mineralogy and Geology Gallery, the Gallery of Evolution, and the Paleontology and Comparative Anatomy Gallery. There’s also a small zoo, a lecture hall, and greenhouses.
I enjoy strolling through the Jardin des Plantes; it is always a different experience depending on the season. In April- May, you can see the most beautiful cherry trees in Paris, while in winter, the garden hosts the Paris light festival with beautiful sculpture-lanterns spread through the alleys. However, my favourite part is the Alpine garden, especially the greenhouses, with their 18th-century iron architecture, hosting exotic trees and plants. Visiting the botanical garden greenhouses is like a step back in time!
Botanical Gardens in Georgia
Batumi Botanical Gardens
Contributed by Maggie from The World Was Here First
If you’re looking for a unique and gorgeous botanical garden to visit on your travels, then look no further than the Batumi Botanical Gardens on the beautiful Black Sea coast in the country of Georgia. Located about nine kilometres north of the city of Batumi in Georgia’s Adjara region, the Batumi Botanical Gardens are one of the largest of their kind in the former Soviet Union. They are a lush, green oasis amid a bustling metropolis.
A visit to these gardens is one of the top things to do in Batumi and a significant highlight of a trip to Georgia. The gardens were opened in 1912 and encompass 108 hectares of land. The gardens are massive and are home to flora from nine different sectors, including Australia, New Zealand, East Asia, Mexico, South America, the Mediterranean, the Himalayas and, of course, the Caucasian subtropics.
Because of the sheer area, the gardens cover, you can easily spend an entire day hiking through and enjoying them. They are incredibly green and lush, and I loved all of the diversity of flora that you can find in this unique space.
The vibrant green of the gardens clashes beautifully with the shocking blue of the nearby coast, offering stunning views and photo opportunities. In a city known for its casinos and parties, the Batumi Botanical Gardens provide a calming respite from the vices of the city centre.
Botanical Gardens in Italy
Giardini la Mortella
Contributed by Helen of Helen On Her Holidays
The Giardini la Mortella is a beautiful botanic garden on the island of Ischia, Italy. It was created between 1956 and 2010 by Susana Walton, the Argentinian wife of English composer William Walton, working with garden designer Russell Page.
The gardens are in an unlikely location. When the Waltons bought the plot in 1956, there was no garden or house on the land. Their friend Sir Laurence Olivier described it as a rocky “quarry”. But Susana and Russell managed to turn the site’s ravine, rock face and hilltop into three distinct areas for their botanical garden.
Most visitors will enter the garden at the lowest, ravine level. Down here everything is lush and semi-tropical, with gorgeous fountains, ferns and tall trees. This area is also where you’ll find one of Giardini la Mortella’s most amazing plants, the Victoria Amazonica giant water lily. The Amazonica has huge leaves that can grow up to six feet in diameter and 12-inch flowers that bloom twice in one night; the first time white and female, the second red and male.
Moving up through the rocky hillside, you’ll find more lovely gardens, and Susana and Williams’ tombs; both buried in the garden. At the top of the hill, the gardens are sunnier and more Mediterranean, with a gentle sense of humour. Music is celebrated here too, with a large, Roman-style amphitheatre set into the hillside. Concerts take place here throughout the summer.
Orto Botanico of Cagliari
Contributed by Claudia from Strictly Sardinia
One of my favourite parks in Cagliari, Sardinia is the beautiful Orto Botanico – Botanical Garden, in English. Located in the central Viale Sant’Ignazio, at a stone’s throw from the historical heart of town, the Orto Botanico first opened its gates in 1866. Since then it has become home of an incredible variety of plants from all over the world, including Mediterranean plant (more than 2000), as well as palm trees (which have a fully dedicated section) and other exotic ones.
My favourite thing about Cagliari’s Orto Botanico is the presence of archaeological remains right within its grounds. There are the remains of a Roman thermal bath, and domestic buildings, as well as a water cistern.
What I love about it is that despite being in the centre of town, as soon as you enter you will feel completely immersed in nature, and the sound of leaves moving about, the breeze blowing and the birds and other animals living in the trees is entirely relaxing. It’s quite the perfect spot for a picnic – keep in mind there is no café at the park, but you can find several places to buy some food right across the street or in the nearby Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.
The Orto Botanico opens every day at 9:00 am. Closing time varies each season (it’s 8:00 pm in the peak summer months). Admission fee is €4. If you care for it, you can even join a guided tour once there.
Botanical Gardens in the Madeira
The Monte Palace Garden
Contributed by Alexandrina of Earthosea
The Monte Palace Tropical Garden sits on one of the highest hills in the city of Funchal on the island of Madeira. This stunning tropical garden is spread on an area of more than 70,000 square meters and is home to plants from all over the world. It is one of several beautiful gardens in Madeira including the renowned Botanical Gardens of Madeira.
The Tropical Garden of Funchal is known for its beautifully arranged and lush gardens. It is also notable for the various theme gardens such as Oriental Gardens, inspired by the Chinese and Japanese cultures. These gardens promise to take you to another world and show you the best of it. Within the Oriental Gardens, one would find lots of ponds full of Koi fish, orchid gardens, meditation spots and lots of Buddhism statues and ornaments.
Going deeper into the gardens of Monte Palace, one would find the museums showing the riches of various cultures across the globe. One of the museums is dedicated to the Zimbabwean culture and has a great collection of wooden sculptures and various artefacts used in rituals.
Next to it is the museum of “Mother Nature’s secrets”, which is known for its rich collection of humongous minerals and gems coming from all of Portugal’s ex-colonies. Some of the precious stones are massive in size and worth seeing.
Finally, you will end up at the Tile Museum, which houses a jaw-dropping collection of Portuguese tiles dating back to the 15th century. Inspired by the Moorish culture, they are painted in all sorts of colours displaying various nativity scenes.
At the end of your trip, you will finally reach the Monte Palace, which is surrounded by lush tropical vegetation and a beautiful pond full of swans. Back in the days, the palace was a hotel, which was welcoming some of the wealthiest people in Europe and offered them romantic boat rides around the pond. The Monte Palace Tropical Garden is a genuinely stunning garden that is worth the visit and situated in one of the most stunning locations in Portugal.
Botanical Gardens in the Netherlands
Contributed by Daniela of Exploring The Netherlands
While not officially listed as a botanical garden, Keukenhof in the Netherlands is definitely the most impressive and most beautiful flower garden in the world. Each year more than seven million spring flower bulbs are planted to blossom in the most intricate and colourful patterns the following spring. If there’s one place in the world, that I can visit over and over again, it is Keukenhof. I’ve already been nine times, and every year Keukenhof is different.
I can’t stop admiring the variety of the tulips and each time I look I discover a new type. It’s no wonder that this is one of the best places to see tulips in the Netherlands as there are more than 800 different sorts of tulips in Keukenhof!
Each year there is a different theme in the park, and the gardeners create a unique floral mosaic to celebrate it. There is also a flower parade with amazing floats decorated with tulips and other spring flowers.
Besides tulips, there are also crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils, snowdrops, bluebells, lilies-of-the-valley, and irises, among others. Various themes separate the beautifully landscaped gardens; a Japanese garden, an inspirational garden, and a Renaissance garden, to name a few.
Keukenhof is near Lisse, in the so-called Bulb Region (Bollenstreek) – an area famous for the flower bulb farms. The park is open only in spring, from around 20 March till 10 May, although each year the dates change.
Hortus Botanicus Leiden
Contributed by Maartje of The Orange Backpack
The oldest botanical gardens in the Netherlands is the Hortus Botanicus dating back to 1590 when the century-old Leiden University founded it.
The garden was established to grow medicinal plants for the medical faculty, but Hortus grew over the years, and many more plants and trees were added. It once carried out horticultural experiments, creating the famous Dutch tulips we know today.
The greenhouses were later added, between 1850 and 1890 offering Hortus the possibility to grow more exotic species despite the cold Dutch climate.
Hortus Botanicus has some amazing species like the oldest plant still existing in the garden, which is a Liriodendron (tulip tree) from 1716. And if you visit at the right time, you may see the spectacular giant water lily that flowers once each year. Wander around the greenhouses of the Hortus Botanicus, stroll through the inner and outdoor gardens and learn about the Hortus Observatory.
The botanical garden is in the city of Leiden in the Netherlands, which is a lovely place, much like Amsterdam, with historic buildings and canals. Stroll around the charming streets and absorb the historical vibe while admiring the monuments and bridges and trying to read the Dutch street art poetry around the city.
Botanical Gardens in Poland
Warsaw Botanical Gardens
Contributed by Or of My Path In The World
Founded in 1818 by the botanist Professor Michał Szubert, The University of Warsaw Botanical Gardens is a fantastic place to visit in Warsaw and a must-have on your botanical garden bucket list.
By 1824, these gardens housed more than 10,000 plant species, including 1000 types of Polish flora. Areas of the gardens were replaced a few times throughout the years and were developed, with sections being added until the start of World War II. About 80% of Warsaw was destroyed during the war, including the botanical gardens; however, shortly after the war had ended the gardens were re-built.
Located near Łazienki Park in the heart of Warsaw, these relatively small gardens make up for their size in beauty. I love how some areas look like a giant forest while others look like a charming floral garden.
From all kinds of shrubs and trees to roses, magnolias, and other beautiful flowers, you can admire thousands of species from all around the world here. I also love the benches, sculptures, and fountains that are dotted around the gardens, making them an ideal place for a morning or an afternoon stroll.
The University of Warsaw Botanical Gardens are open from May to October and cost 10 Zloty (about £2.00) to visit.
Botanical Gardens in Russia
Saint Petersburg Botanical Garden
Contributed by Angie of Where Angie Wanders
Founded by Peter the Great in 1714, Russia’s oldest botanical garden started life as a herb garden to grow and study the properties of medicinal plants. The 22-hectare site has 25 glasshouses dating from the early 19th-century which host botanical varieties of cacti, ferns, azaleas and orchids. A visit to the gardens is just one of the amazing things to do in St Petersburg.
At the turn of the 20th century, the Saint Petersburg Botanic Garden was only second to Kew Gardens in London as the biggest in the world however bombing during WW2 destroyed 90% of all the plants. After the war, the plants were replaced, and today the botanists are once again conducting large-scale research, with plants from around the world.
A highlight of the gardens is the blossoming cactus that flowers only one night a year, usually in mid-June during the white night season. The gardens stay open until midnight for this event to allow visitors a chance to experience this amazing phenomenon. I loved walking through the allium borders and viewing the giant water-lilies that flower each summer, their leaves can reach up to 2 metres in diameter.
Botanical Gardens in Spain
Jardin Botanica Tenerife
Contributed by Bridget from The Flashpacker
The small but perfectly formed Jardín Botánico is one of the highlights of Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife however, this botanic garden was never intended to be a permanent fixture on the Tenerife landscape.
In 1788, King Carlos II of Spain conceived the garden as a resting place for exotic plant species on their journey between their point of origin, in the Americas and the Far East, and their final destination in Madrid. But whilst these plants flourished in the sub-tropical climate of Tenerife, Madrid’s winters weren’t so kind to them. Plans to transport them all to the Spanish mainland were abandoned, and they remained in Puerto de la Cruz for us to enjoy today.
The botanic garden, with its leafy groves and ponds strewn with lily pads, interlaced with shaded paths, is perfect for strolling on a hot day in Puerto de la Cruz. This lush wonderland is home to coffee and cocoa bushes, pepper and tulip trees, and flowers that look remarkably like bananas. The star of the show for me is the imposing Moreton Bay fig tree, which is as tall as a small church.
Better still, entrance to this sub-tropical wonderland is yours for a very modest fee (3 Euro in 2020).
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